Tips for cramming and allnighters

Whoops! It's the night before the big exam, and you haven't done a lick of studying all semester!
Looking back on it, you know that you should have been hitting the books all those nights you were watching t.v., but there's nothing you can do about it now. Don't throw in the towel yet, though--it's time to get cramming.

While cramming probably won't get you an "A," it can definitely save you from an "F." So suck it up and get ready for a long, hard night. And vow to be a better student from now on.


The 13 Steps to cramming before an exam:
Step 01. Find out what you really need to study:
If your teacher holds a review session before the exam, take advantage of the opportunity. You'll find out what topics the teacher thinks are important, and you'll have an opportunity to ask questions (although if you're having to cram, you probably have a few too many questions at this point). Many teachers hand out study guides; be sure to use them. While they probably won't cover everything that will be on the test, you'll at least be able to focus on the key topics.

Step 02. Get out your lecture notes:
Assuming you attended class regularly, you should have some notes to look over. If you don't have any notes, try to get copies from a classmate. Your class notes are a treasure trove of important knowledge, because your teacher covers what he or she thinks is most important.

Step 03. Note your notes' notable notions:
As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you don't know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paper--your cramming notes-- or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and you'll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.

Step 04. Go through your study guide and your cramming notes:
Look up the important topics in your textbook. Scan the key sections of your text and write down any new information you find that seems important. The idea here is not to write down everything, but rather to identify the specific ideas, facts or equations that are likely to be on the test and focus on those topics as much as possible.

Step 05. Look at the beginnings and ends of textbook chapters:
The first page of a chapter often identifies key points that will aid your understanding of the material. The last couple pages will often summarize the chapter, define or highlight key terms, and--in the case of math texts--list important equations. Again, write any new important material down on flashcards or your list of cramming notes.

Step 06. Review your flashcards or cramming notes:
Go through the key topics quickly. If you feel you understand and can remember a certain topic or equation cross it off the list or set its flashcard aside. If you come up with additional questions, look them up in your notes and text.

Step 07. Test yourself:
If your teacher handed out a practice test, do it now. If not, do the practice tests or review questions at the ends of your textbook chapters. Only do the questions that are directly relevant to the concepts you've identified as important. Don't spend a lot of time on each question. If you get stuck on a question, note it and come back to it after you grade your test.

Step 08. Grade your self-tests:
Be honest with your grading--if you don't fully understand something, don't pretend you do. Look at the questions you got wrong and compare those to your cramming notes or flashcards. You may need to make some new flashcards, and you may need to revisit some of those you thought you knew.

Step 09. Repeat step 6:
You'll want to review your cramming notes or flashcards as much as possible between now and test time. Each time you do so you should be able to set aside more flashcards or cross out more topics on your list.

Step 10. Contemplate possible essay questions (if applicable):
By now you should have at least a light grasp on the material. Think about the overarching concepts involved and outline (preferably on paper) your approach to essay questions.

Step 11. Repeat step 6 (again!):
You'll want to review those important topics again and again until you remember them all.

Step 12. Get some sleep:
Sometimes, you just don't have enough time for sleep, but do try to get as much sleep as possible before your test. It's a good idea to get the bulk of your cramming in before going to bed and then get up with enough time to review a bit more.

Step 13. Review all your cramming notes or flashcards one more time:
Right before the test, go through every one of your flashcards or notes--even if you think you have memorized them. You want everything to be fresh in your mind when you take the test. If you are having some trouble remembering a certain definition or equation, write it down six or seven times in a row. That should firmly imprint it on your brain.


10 Important Tips:
Tip 01:
If you're having trouble staying alert while you're cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If you're tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration. (Just remember, you can have too much Caffeine and you may find that you have a crash after it has given you the initial boost)

Tip 02:
It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon (i.e. cinnamon gum) helps you concentrate, so pack some Big Red

Tip 03:
You may find it easier to review with a study partner. You can quiz each other and answer each other's questions as you go along. Some people find this a distraction, so see what works best for you.

Tip 04:
Eat nutritious food. It's harder to concentrate if you're loaded up on junk. Even though sugar is a fast source of energy, sugar lows happen shortly after the highs and they are hard to come off of. Bananas in particular are a great source of slow release sugar and energy.

Tip 05:
Eliminate as many potential distractions as possible. If you can study without a computer, then make sure to work away from one. If your assignment is on the computer, disable the internet temporarily before you start. If you're working on the internet, (researching, etc.) then you need to exercise self-control.

Tip 06:
Right before the test, try to get some exercise. Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.

Tip 07:
Take frequent, short breaks. Breaks help you stay alert, and they can also prevent burnout.

Tip 08:
Drinking plenty of water helps you to think and most importantly it hydrates you. Remember: caffeine is a diuretic. So if you have been downing the coffee in order to cram for your test you need to re-hydrate yourself.

Tip 09:
Finally, read aloud, you may sound stupid but believe it or not this is a better way to learn in a hurry than reading off a page and staring into nothingness.

Tip 10:
Put on a strong smelling lotion while cramming. Put the same lotion on before the test. The smell will bring memories of studying. This technique also works with a strong candle.

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